Surinamers may be hospitable, but they are annoyed if visitors violate unwritten rules of etiquette. In daily life the following rules apply:

Dress code: lightweight and casual, but elegant. In the city ‘cover up’, even when you go shopping. For business appointments dress conservatively. Men should wear lightweight trousers, leather shoes and a shirt and tie. Short-sleeved buttoned shirts, that are neatly pressed, are generally accepted. Keep swimwear for the pools; do not walk around in bathing suits in the hotel lobbies.

At home Surinamers wear informal ‘house-clothes’ and slippers. In the interior and relaxing resorts, informal vacation wear is always the right choice. When you visit people at their homes, take off your shoes and leave them outside on the porch.

Be discrete. Questions about private life can easily be interpreted as nosiness and will make people shut up. They will tell what they wish to when they want to.

When you see an acquaintance dance intimately with a woman, who is not necessarily his wife, don’t bring it up. Sometimes, married men step out with a buitenvrouw (mistress) whom they introduce to others as ‘my cousin from the district.’

Decline from discussing politics, especially when it concerns the situation in Suriname.

You will soon realize that people arrive late for an appointment or don’t come at all. There are dozens of reasons for this, from the lack of taxis to complicated family situations, or the unexpected arrival of a friend. There are often no telephones in many areas, and they may not be able to notify you.

In the business world a firm appointment is an obligation.

Intimate behavior in public makes others feel uncomfortable (although at dance parties there’s a lot of that going on). You do your romancing at home - out of the public eye. However, when greeting good friends you do exchange a hug (brasa) or kisses.

Open expressions of homosexuality are taboo, especially for men. There is a small gay community in Paramaribo, which occasionally has scheduled parties and meetings. There is less reaction about gay women. Matis, intimate female friends, are an old and accepted practice among the Afro-Surinamers.


For more info:

The Guide
to Suriname